“The things we go through for this band, man”: up close and personal with London punks Shame

They're just one of the great new acts featured in the NME 100.

London punks Shame are one of the best new bands in the country, their debut ‘Songs of Praise’ by turns sarcastic, sordid and seriously fucking good. Not just everything gets a five-star NME review, you know. The five-piece is, of course, included in the NME 100 – a shedload of new acts you need in your earholes right now. Why not get to know frontman Charlie Steen and co.  a little better? Gather round…

People often talk about Shame as a serious, political band, but there’s a lot of lightness and fun on ‘Songs of Praise’…

Josh: “There is a lot of fun on the album. Silliness, fun and humour. I think everyone who comes to our show from the start can see that humour of being part of Shame and what’s based in it. There is something charming about it. We don’t take ourselves seriously. We don’t act like we’re in a band, that’s where the humour comes from. We just wanted to dissolve any perception of lavishness.”


Charlie Steen: “The songs on the album are, lyrically, not really political; they’re more like social observations. ‘Visa Vulture’ [which calls out Theresa May in acharacteristically sarky fashion] is the only really political one. That’s not on the album because it wasn’t done in the same period of time [as the rest of the album]. There’s is a time stamp on the record.”

You’re five lads with guitars, but Shame couldn’t be any less laddy. Are you conscious of that?

Charlie Forbes: “The energy that comes from the crowd at our show could be seen as kind of aggressive, but we don’t really like lad culture – drinking people’s piss and all that. There’s a difference between being five normal kids who play music together and being aggressive and “in your face”. It’s like the thing Liam Gallagher said about Alex Turner” ‘Do you think he’s talking in that an accent wearing a leather jacket when really he’s going home to his mum?’ It’s not a real thing.”

Has the BBC been in touch about the album title?

Charlie Steen: It did get mentioned on radio yesterday. A lawyer had to speak to the BBC about the name we came up with, but they basically said it’s fine as long as we’re not slandering God.

They say shouldn’t work with children of animals. What was it like when you shot the cover, which literally features you holding a load of pigs?

Sean: “Just terrible! In the photo, obviously, they looked really cute, but it took us quite some time to pick then up because the woman would just grab them by the back legs and be like: ‘Whack this in your arms’. One of them started squealing and it was really quite distressing.”

Charlie Forbes: “You don’t realise how heavy they are. It’s like trying to pick up solid muscle.”


Charlie Forbes: “The things we go through for this band, man.”

There’s a really amazing energy to Shame performances. Charlie [Steen], I don’t think I’ve ever seen you do a show with your shirt on…

Josh: “We started as a live band; we took a while to get into recording. That’s where we built our name. We were at school and did free shows every week, just doing it for the shits and giggles. That was how we got the first initial hype in the first year, and the next thing you know you’re playing at Ministry of Sound.”

Charlie Steen: When were playing for, like, two people was mostly for our entertainment than for everyone else. I always took my shirt off, from the start. I was always insecure, and taking my shirt off onstage was something I could do without getting criticism. A shame gig is a judgement-free zone.

What do you hope 2018 will bring you?

Charlie Steen: Excess, and a literal world tour. It’s gonna be good. If that happens by the end of 2018, I’ll be very happy.


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